Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit hosts the opening three rounds of the eagerly awaited 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship season this coming weekend, 5th/6th April, with some of the globe’s most talented aspiring Formula One drivers set to line-up on the grid.
No fewer than nine nationalities will be represented at the Northamptonshire track and with a new compound of Michelin tyre this season, lap times are expected to tumble in the cost-effective and ultra-competitive category.
Rockingham, of course, was the venue for the officially timed pre-season test and Media Day two weeks ago where reigning champion entrant MGR Motorsport topped the timesheets with Brazil’s Pietro Fittipaldi (Camberley).
The 17-year-old, grandson of 1972 and 1974 F1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, is back for a second season in Protyre Formula Renault this year and is joined at MGR by returning Italian racer Matteo Ferrer (Colchester) and two category newcomers – reigning Radical SR1 Cup Champion Colin Noble Jnr (Penicuik, Midlothian) and India’s Tarun Reddy.
Scorpio Motorsport’s Piers Hickin (Knaphill) made a big impact during the Rockingham test, ending the day within a mere 0.030 seconds of Fittipaldi, and looks a strong bet to challenge for his maiden podium in Protyre Formula Renault at the weekend after a part-season in 2013.
Two of the UK’s very best young single-seater prospects will mount a front-running challenge for leading team Fortec Motorsport, reigning Autumn Cup Champion Ben Barnicoat (Chesterfield) and podium finisher Alex Gill (Doncaster).
Racing Steps Foundation driver Barnicoat, who has graduated into the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup this year with the Daventry team, is aiming to gain additional experience during the Protyre Formula Renault season-opener. He and Gill will be joined by Belgian single-seater debutant Wolfgang Reip, winner of the 2012 Nissan Playstation GT Academy Europe title.
Local Rockingham team Cliff Dempsey Racing, based a stone’s throw away in neighbouring Corby, makes a welcome full-time return to the championship this year with American youngster Travis ‘TJ’ Fischer and Canadian driver Patrick Dussault. Greek driver Dimitris Papanastasiou, who will make his series debut with 2010 champions Hillspeed, adds yet more international flavour to the entry list.
Finland’s Atte Lehtonen embarks on his second season in Protyre Formula Renault with SWB Motorsport, partnering Jersey-based karting graduate Jack Butel, while another Finn, privateer Niklas Tiihonen, will make his single-seater bow under the Circulation Motorsport banner.
Qualifying for the opening three rounds of the Protyre Formula Renault season will take place over two sessions on Saturday, 5th April, at 10.30 and 11.25 with race one following at 16.45. On Sunday, 6th April, race two will begin at 13.25 with race three scheduled to start at 16.20.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin.